India offers two types of Wi-Fi access free metered access which requires the users to register and second are those hotspots which do not have any password.
Some of these are Government initiatives like the one in Mumbai is “Aaple_Sarkar_Mum-WI-FI”, while Google in conjunction with Indian Railways is offering free Wi-Fi services at Railway stations across India. Furthermore, Coffee Shops, Bookstores and Hotels have also been providing free Wi-Fi access.
The common factors are:
- These services require registration and authentication
- Located at Public Places.
Providing Free Wi-Fi has been the best move by the Government for this social networking crazed generation, which has been using it for accessing Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp etc However, it shouldn’t take a long time for the cyber criminals to realize the huge potential of gaining access to the network traffic by implementing Rogue Wi-Fi hotspots.
Rogue Wi-Fi Hotspots could be turned into surveillance systems and could also be used to inject malicious / advertisements into the network traffic. It’s not just the researchers who have demonstrated but Organizations too have injected traffic into the network in the past and what would stop the criminals from using the same technology to monetize this craze of accessing Free Wi-Fi.
Privacy concerns are raised by the elite few while most of the others turn a blind eye as long as they don’t have to pay a dime for Internet Access and has been aptly proved by the 4G boom with the free offerings by all the Telcos, and ultimately resulted in market consolidation vis’a’vis data pricing.
In these trying times when every bit of data can help build up your personal profile, it would pay in the longer run for everyone to exercise caution while accessing Internet. Moreover caution is just not limited to accessing Internet but also the Apps and their system level permissions do play an important role in securing your privacy.
Rogue Wi-Fis are very difficult to detect since there is very little information that they leak and it is very much possible that SSID will be replicated by these criminals in order to lure unsuspecting victims into their trap. It is also very much probable that the Rogue Wi-Fi wouldn’t ask for registration / authentication and should alert the users that something is amiss.
How to user Free Wi-Fi:
- Implement VPN on your devices / laptops
- Keep a separate Cell Number for accessing the Wi-Fi as most of them rely on OTP sent as an SMS to the registered number. It should be different from the one used for Banking Transactions.
- Verify the App Permissions before installing them on your device.
- Never conduct banking transactions through Free WI-FI; one may never know who is sniffing your traffic.
- Always keep you Phone Antivirus updated to ensure maximum efficiency.
- When in doubt about a particular SSID, do ask the owner of the shop who is providing this service and you may always choose to disconnect immediately.